Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The transplant was a success...

I swapped Barbara her dummy egg for a pair of ducklings, and she settled right down on them. No questions asked. I've been checking every hour in case of 'rejection' but both parties seem happy with the arrangement. I even tried to feel under Barbara, and found a tiny head poking up from under her wing, and was given What For by the new mother. So far so good.

The incubator was quickly washed out and a new batch of eggs set this morning, as a favour to a neighbor. She'll take delivery of those day old chickens, and I expect I will have some of my own Pekin and Barbu d'Uccle eggs to put in there next.

Mike finished catching up hen pheasants for breeding stock yesterday. And just in time as the first eggs are appearing in their enclosures. I think there's about 2,000 breeding pheasants in there this year. We're going to start collecting the eggs this week, and every day for the next few months.

Pheasant breeding pens, in the middle of summer and a nice dry spell

Unfortunately, this year egg season is coinciding with mud season, so we'll have to wash all the eggs before setting them. At peak time, we pick up 1400 eggs a day.

A few day's worth of pheasant eggs, trayed and ready for incubation

That's a lot of washing. I really hope the weather picks up soon.


  1. How do you wash the eggs? I imagine pheasant eggs have an invisible-when-dry membrane over them similar to that on chicken eggs. I've always been told it's best not to wash our backyard eggs until right before consumption since the membrane helps preserve the egg and is easily washed away. If this is true, I would imagine it's even more critical for eggs intended for incubation.

  2. 1400! That's a lot of egg washing. Congrats on being the new owner of 10 acres and welcome back. I'm sorry to hear that you were sick while visiting your sister. Hope all is well now and from what you have posted life is keeping you busy.

  3. What is it about cross-species cooperation that tugs at my heartstrings? I'm a sucker for those calendars with pictures of cats sleeping between a dog's paws, and birds cuddling up with rabbits. I can't wait to see Barbara the Weather Chicken with her adopted brood. She's Miss April, for sure!

  4. Here's hoping! otherwise you will have to devise industrial egg-washing facilities.
    PS loving the individual photos and descriptions of your dog pack :o)

  5. That's a lot of egg picking up. Great photos of the Pheasant pens, very nice. Hope you have a short mud season.

  6. Jen- do you guys incubate pheasant eggs to ultimately release pheasants for hunting? Or do you provide pheasant to restaurants? Just curious.

  7. Kate - I'm in your camp. I never wash my eggs til I'm ready to eat them. The shell is porous and the bloom protects the shell. With hatching on a large scale like this disease is a risk so the eggs are washed to remove the mud and given a quick dunk in a sterilising eggwash to protect the chick when it hatches.

  8. Donna - That's why we're keen when you bring your kids to visit - free egg picking labour ;-)

    Maria - We have special oscillating heated buckets of water that theoretically clean the eggs by sloshing them gently back and forth. When it's this muddy only elbow grease gets them clean enough. At least it keeps me employed!

  9. Tamar - I'm with you re. cross-species cooperation. A couple years ago, an old garden hen adopted a wild partridge that found its way home in the back of Mike's truck. It just looked lost, and Henny called it to her and cared for it til one day it just flew off, ready to find a mate. I guess our genetic codes are pretty flexible when it comes to mothering.

  10. Terry - Mud season is wearing, but at least we don't get the midge season that follows in New England!

    Paula - Good question - the answer is both, ultimately. We raise pheasants for this shoot (and for some other shoots) and they're sold "over the guns" (ie for shooting) on a shoot day. But, every bird that's shot and deemed fit for consumption finds its way to local restaurants, butchers, and to Europe where there's a big market (game pates).

    But we only shoot 40% of what we release every year; the rest live wild lives.

    At the end of the shoot season, we catch some of the hens that didn't get shot, keep them in breed pens for a few months to collect their eggs, then release them back into the wild again.

    Think of it like a crop: between March and August we're trying to hatch and grow them. Between Sept and Feb, we're trying to harvest them (shooting season). And we 'save our own seed' by collecting eggs from our hens.

  11. I never got round to saying congratulation on getting the land! I am incredibly jealous!!!!